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16 Apr, 2013

Indian PM: Media Must Highlight Economic and Social Injustices


Prime Minister’s Office, 15-April, 2013 – Following is the text of the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh’s speech at the NDTV Indians of the Year Award function in New Delhi today:

“It is a great pleasure for me to be here today amongst men and women of such great distinction. I join all of you in felicitating the outstanding individuals whom New Delhi Television has honored a little while back. These men and women represent the bravest, the best and the brightest sons and daughters of our country.

I am particularly happy that NDTV has honored the extraordinarily brave young woman who was the victim of a brutal assault in Delhi last December. Her courage and her zest for life will always serve as an inspiration to our people. We should all pay tribute to her by resolving that we will not let the loss of her life go in vain, and will work to enhance the safety and security of our women in this vast country of ours.

This brings me to the splendid work done by Justice J S Verma, Shri Gopal Subramaniam and Justice Leila Seth in the committee that the Government had set up to recommend changes in criminal law to be able to deal more effectively with heinous offences against our women. It was one of the rare occasions when a committee constituted by the Government was able to finish its work ahead of time. The labor of love of these three great legal luminaries has made it possible for the Government to make our statutes stronger and more effective as far as crimes against women are concerned. As I have said on an earlier occasion as well, there is a great deal more that needs to be done not only for making women safer and more secure in our country, but also for empowering them socially and economically. Our Government will continue to make all possible efforts in this direction.

There are two other legendary personalities whose life and work we are celebrating on this occasion. Sadly, both are not with us anymore. Pandit Ravi Shankar’s accomplishments as a Sitar maestro, as an ambassador of Indian music to the world at large and as a cultural icon of our country are unparalleled. His consummate mastery of the Sitar and his creativity are now a part of the music folklore of our country. Shri Yash Chopra was another master artist, who served our people through the medium of films. The films he created have entertained and educated generations of Indians. I pay tribute to these two outstanding artists and their art.

I have been told that today happens to be the 25th anniversary of the establishment of NDTV. NDTV’s successes and achievements in its journey of 25 years owe a great deal to another outstanding individual and its founder Dr. Prannoy Roy. Twenty five years back he had the courage of conviction to enter untested waters. This boldness and his talent, and the talent of many other men and women working with him, have resulted in a media brand that is widely respected for its professionalism and ethics. I congratulate Prannoy and his team for the high standards they have maintained.

The period of 25 years that NDTV has been in business is also broadly the period of economic reforms in our country. The media has both been a partner and a beneficiary from the reform process. The need for enhanced communication because of increased economic activity, and advancements in telecommunications technology have led to a rapid growth in the number of television channels in our country. At the time when NDTV pioneered the idea of a private television company, our country only had Doordarshan as a public broadcaster. Today, we have more than 800 channels in nearly two dozen languages. Television sets have now reached more than half the households in our country.

This process of change in the media sector is continuing with the digitization of the cable industry, which is in its second phase currently. Digitization will help broadcasters in market discovery, lead to a more equitable distribution of income, and above all, provide consumers with better services and more choice. I hope it will also provide a healthier revenue stream to television companies.

I have always believed that the media has a very important contribution to make in the processes of nation building in our country. We expect our media not only to just report accurately on what has happened but also to highlight social and economic injustices and thus pave the way for their redressal. We expect the media to educate public opinion on what is advisable and what is not by informing the people of the benefits and adverse consequences of following a particular course of action. We expect the media to point out the shortcomings of the government and thus help in improving the effectiveness of the administrative set up in our country. This is indeed a formidable list of expectations.

I also believe that the media in our country has, on balance, acquitted itself well. We can be justifiably proud of its vibrancy and its independence. There are many newspapers and TV channels that have maintained a very high quality in their work, and have made a conscious effort to take up issues that are of critical importance to our society and country. We witness examples of accurate, fair and well researched reporting everyday on the pages of newspapers and on TV screens. I think that as a whole our media has been successful in its task of informing and educating the people about the state of our society and to our country and the work of the Government.

However, there have been aberrations too. We sometimes see sensationalism driven by personal and political prejudices. There is trivialization of the serious issues resulting sometime in misinformation. Reports about ‘paid news’ during the election times should be a major cause of concern to the media. I am of the view that it is for the media itself to find effective ways and means of addressing these concerns problems.

I am happy that NDTV has taken up many campaigns on issues of vital national importance like school education, health, environmental conservation and transparency in public administration. I hope to see such efforts from many more TV channels in the time to come.

Let me conclude by wishing NDTV and the awardees the very best for the future.

NDTV has served our country with distinction in the first twenty five years of its existence but I venture to think that the best is yet to come and my very best wishes to Prannoy.